Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association Takes Legal Action Against the City of Bend to Protect Lodging Tax Dollars Intended for Tourism Promotion
Update November 2019: The City of Bend has appealed the decision by the Deschutes County Circuit Court after ruling in favor of ORLA and our fellow plaintiffs. Arguments for the appeal were heard on November 19, 2019, and we await further decision from the courts. The law firm Karnopp Peterson is representing ORLA through the appeals process. ORLA continues to promote the appropriate use of local lodging tax dollars by local jurisdictions.
Update May 2018 - A Deschutes County judge ruled that the City of Bend broke the law by redirecting restricted lodging tax dollars to street maintenance. As a result of the court hearing, $350,000 that had been reallocated to road repairs will be directed back to tourism promotion. ORLA thanks the firm Karnopp Petersen LLP for their excellent representation in this case.
On May 8, 2018, the Judge heard arguments from the city’s attorney and an attorney representing the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association and two local hotels that sued the city in September.
The Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association (ORLA) filed a lawsuit September 26, 2017, against the City of Bend for diverting the City’s room tax revenues away from tourism promotion and reducing the allocation for tourism promotion below what is required by law.
ORLA is challenging the validity and implementation of a recent Bend City Ordinance which amends the percentage of room tax revenue the City spends on the promotion of tourism and improperly diverts restricted room tax revenues to road maintenance.
“Cities must follow the restrictions in place for disbursement of the lodging tax revenues they collect,” said ORLA President & CEO Jason Brandt. “Unfortunately, Ordinance NS-2291 results in Bend being out of compliance with state law. The vast majority of tourism revenues in Bend can already be spent on general fund purposes so we hope our lawsuit results in acknowledgment from the courts that this recent act is in violation of Oregon law and must be undone.”
Bend City Ordinance NS-2291 violates state law (Oregon Revised Statue 320.350) in one or more of the following ways:
a) 9% of the City’s 10.4% city room tax rate has a set of restrictions for appropriate use of those funds. Within the 9% city room tax rate, the City is statutorily required to spend 30 percent on tourism promotion and tourism related facilities.
b) The remaining 1.4% city room tax rate is subject to a statutorily required 70% investment in tourism promotion and tourism related facilities.
“Lodging operators should be recognized as financial partners of local governments,” said Brandt. “As tourism becomes more successful, so does the tax revenue provided to local governments to invest in the projects important to local residents.”
A report from Longwoods International shows for every $1 invested in tourism promotion, $237 is generated in economic impact and $11 in tax revenue to the benefit of Oregon residents.
ORLA is engaged on a state and local level, helping local municipalities realize that shifts in tourism promotion investments can do more harm than good. Brandt argues there is a direct correlation between tourism promotion and a community’s own tax revenue. “Tourism promotion dollars are crucial to keeping Oregon’s visitor destinations top of mind. Local communities stand to lose significant tax dollars for their general funds if tourists choose to travel elsewhere.”
In 2003, the Oregon State Legislature passed HB 2267, mandating 70% of new or increased local lodging taxes be directed to tourism promotion or tourism related facilities. At that time, the City made the commitment to fund tourism promotion with 30% of the initial 9% tax rate in Bend. In 2013, the City’s residents approved Measure 9-94, which increased the City’s room tax rate from 9% to 10.4%. That 1.4% increase in tax rate is subject to the restrictions established in HB 2267. This past May the City passed an ordinance, in violation of the law, changing the allocation of tourism dollars.
“The City claims their new allocation of lodging tax dollars still follows state law. This is incorrect,” said Brandt. “There is an error in the total investment they are required to make in tourism promotions and/or facilities.”
The hospitality industry sees transportation investments as a crucial contributor to Oregon’s continued economic success. ORLA looks forward to working with Bend and other communities to help identify appropriate revenue streams to fund transportation investments including the unrestricted portion of lodging taxes.
For more information, contact ORLA President & CEO, Jason Brandt, at 971.224.1501.
The Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association represents approximately 2,500 members, and advocates for over 9,900 foodservice locations and 2,200 lodging establishments in Oregon. The foodservice and lodging industry is responsible for 173,700 jobs bringing in over $10.8 billion in annual sales and generates over 54% of the annual tourism dollars spent in Oregon.